April 2013 News Round Up

Positive response from Allergen Bureau Industry Seminars

A broad cross section of the food industry were in attendance at the recent Allergen Bureau Industry Seminar series held in April in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland, as well as associated stakeholders – such as several of the Allergen Bureau endorsed VITAL Training Providers. The main objectives of the seminars were to keep the industry informed about current activities around allergen management and to increase awareness of Allergen Bureau priority projects

The morning meetings included an update on the growth of VITAL, detailing the three phases of VITAL [1) Risk review; 2) Risk Communication; & 3) Certification], and there was a call for interest to participate on specific Phase 2 – Risk Communication; and Phase 3 (Certification) Working Groups. The food industry needs passionate VITAL ambassadors who want to be a part of the shaping of our VITAL future. 

Robin Sherlock, ATSIG, and Dean Clarke & James Roberts, National Measurement Institute, detailed the work of the Allergen Testing Special Interest Group (ATSIG) and the NMI. Dean Stockwell & Lisa Katzer, FSANZ, provided a great overview of FSANZ recent activities in the allergen arena, with a special focus the FSANZ Allergen Collaboration.

Two key industry players, Rob Chandler from Simplot Australia and Philip Taunt from Tegel Foods Ltd, shared their experiences about the benefits and challenges of using VITAL in their facilities. These industry presentations stimulated good discussion around some of the issues of using VITAL in-house. The AFGC provided a brief synopsis of their gluten free survey and they will provide industry with more details when the final report is released.

The seminars were positively concluded with an overview on the international perspective on allergen management and training and the role Allergen Bureaus as we progress on a global food safety journey.

New Allergen Bureau Working Groups – Join Now

A collaborative approach to addressing allergen issues, the Allergen Bureau’s Working Group concept, was explained to participants at both the recent Allergen Bureau Industry Seminars and an Allergen Bureau Members’ Meeting. The Allergen Bureau Labelling Exemptions Working Group was used as an example of this type of highly successful industry initiative.

As a result of this positive model, the following new Working Groups have been identified to help take forward key areas of development for VITAL in 2013:

  • VITAL Phase 1 – Risk Review
  • VITAL Phase 2 – Risk Communication (Labelling)
  • VITAL Phase 3 – Certification

The response at these meetings to the Working Group approach was so positive that we have already received a number of industry volunteers to join these groups – a great start!

Even if you were unable to attend these meetings, NOW is your opportunity to volunteer and be involved in an Allergen Bureau Working Group. Participation on a Working Group will link you in with a range of enthusiastic, diverse and passionate food industry people from across our broad stakeholder groups.

We invite you to take part in our VITAL journey!

Contact Ray Murphy at the Allergen Bureau info@allergenbureau.net if you can contribute to an Allergen Bureau Working Group.

Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management

Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management (iFAAM) is a new food allergy project led by the University of Manchester and funded by the European Commission. The aim of the project is to produce a standardised management process for food manufacturing companies and to develop tools to inform new health advice to prevent the development of food allergies.

The project was launched in March 2013 as the biggest study of food allergy in the world, with a budget of €9million over three years. The research team from the University of Manchester will work with 38 partners, including leading experts from across the UK, Europe, and the USA. Included in this group are food industry representatives and patient groups which represent people at risk of severe allergic reactions.

New risk models will be built on pre-existing clinical data sets to support management of food allergens in a factory environment to minimise the use of precautionary ‘may contain’ labels. Some researchers will look at tools to detect and measure allergens in food to allow validation and monitoring of allergen management plans. Part of the project will seek to predict who is likely to suffer a severe reaction and identify whether early introduction of allergenic foods and other nutritional factors may be protective against development of allergies later on in life. Participants will include groups of children from several countries who are already being monitored in order to study the development of food allergy and other allergic diseases in early life.

More details about the project, including a list of the 38 participants, can be found on the following website: http://cordis.europa.eu/search/index.cfm?fuseaction=proj.document&PJ_RCN=13141237

Precautionary Allergen Labelling Following New Labelling Practices in Australia

Professor Katie Allen, a Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Allergist at the Murdoch Children’s Institute in Melbourne, and her colleagues have looked at the prevalence and types of precautionary allergen labelling statements on packaged foods and examined changes in the prevalence of precautionary labelling for egg, peanuts and tree nuts over a 3 year period. The project also sought to investigate the uptake of the Allergen Bureau’s Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (VITAL) system which was introduced in 2005 to assist food manufacturers with declaring the possible presence of allergens in food products.

The study was conducted between May and July 2011. It involved examination for precautionary labelling of all packaged processed goods in a large Melbourne supermarket. In total, 1355 products were examined and 65% of these were found to have a precautionary statement for one or more allergens. The most commonly-referenced allergens in these statements were tree nuts (36%) and peanuts (34%), followed by sesame (28%) and egg (23%). Of those that had precautionary statements, ‘May contain traces of …’ was the most common type of precautionary label, used on 29% of products, followed by ‘May be present’ on 13% of products.

While the uptake of the VITAL ‘May be present’ statement was relatively low, an increase since 2009 was observed. In an author commentary accompanying the article, Professor Allen is quoted as saying that it is time to change the way manufacturers use precautionary labelling and she would like to see a more rational use of precautionary labelling based on good manufacturing processing like the VITAL 2.0 system.

Reference: Zurzolo GA et al. 2013. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. DOI: 10.1111/jpc.12138

European Academy if Allergy and Clinical Immunology’s (EAACI) Public Declaration

n February this year, Europe’s largest allergy medical association, the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology’s (EAACI), launched its Public Declaration. This calls for policy makers to do more to enhance knowledge of food allergy in the European community, as well as awareness on the sharp increase of food allergy and the triggers of anaphylaxis and to educate the public on how to react in case of an allergy emergency.

The Public Declaration forms part of the EAACI’s 2012-2013 Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Campaign. In media reports, it is said that the organisation believes effective management of food allergy can only be achieved through education and prevention. Consequently, throughout the campaign it will be calling for greater effort on the part of the European Union and national health policy-makers to introduce awareness campaigns, patient educational programmes and research programmes.

In particular, EAACI has set out eight areas that it calls on Europe’s policy-makers at EU level and in Member States to act upon:

  • Promoting food allergy and anaphylaxis awareness
  • Making adrenaline auto-injectors available in schools
  • Prioritising funding for food allergy and anaphylaxis research
  • Calling for clear labelling of foodstuffs
  • Providing better training to general medical practitioners to assist in more accurate diagnosis
  • Creating and promoting EU-wide evidence based guidelines for health care professionals
  • Monitoring the epidemiological trends, macroeconomic and health economic parameters in food allergy
  • Managing food allergy and anaphylaxis in the community

The 17-page declaration, which contains useful statistics plus information about food allergies and intolerances, can be downloaded here in pdf format.

Food Allergy Week 13-19 May

Food Allergy Week is the national initiative to raise awareness and money to support Australians with food allergies. This year, Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia are running the “1 in 10” campaign, to signify the fact that 1 in 10 babies born in Australia today will develop a food allergy.

The campaign has the support of a number of high profile Australians who are encouraging everyone to paint 1 fingernail out of 10 (or 9 fingernails 1 colour, the 10th another colour) and donate to the cause online. Donations will support education and awareness of those with allergy – as well as those without it.

For more information, visit the dedicated Food Allergy Week website www.foodallergyaware.com.au